Sandy Becker

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George Sanford Becker (February 19, 1922 – April 9, 1996), who was known professionally as Sandy Becker, was a television announcer, actor, and comedian who hosted several popular children's programs in New York City. The best known of these was The Sandy Becker Show, which ran from 1955 to 1968 on Channel 5 WABD-TV and WNEW-TV.

Sandy Becker with one of his many guests in 1957.

Biography[edit]

Sandy Becker was born and raised in New York City.[1] He held local radio announcing jobs before first reaching public fame on radio as the title character of "Young Doctor Malone", a role he was invited to take to television, but declined in order to pursue his own television projects. Originally a pre-medical student at New York University in the 1930s, Becker played the good doctor on radio for a decade, after having been the show's announcer.[clarification needed] Soon, he started working for Channel 5 and became the host of a program featuring Bugs Bunny cartoons, "The Looney Tunes Show" on weeknights from 1955 to 1958. A second Friday night program called "Bugs Bunny Theater" ran from 1956 to 1957. Becker also did television announcing, such as for Wildroot Cream-Oil ads in the television series "The Adventures of Robin Hood."

In the middle of those activities, Becker found his true calling, spun in large part off his knack for entertaining his own three children with his vocal and comic versatility. This led him to his morning show beginning in 1955, and he added a noontime program "Sandy Becker's Funhouse" briefly in 1955. He hosted the syndicated "Wonderama" from 1955-56.[2]

Becker would also host a weekday evening & afternoon children's wraparound show which had him playing comedic characters, performing puppet skits and engaging his viewers in informational segments,contests and interview guest performers and personalities in between the reruns of movie and TV cartoons."The Sandy Becker Show" was seen weekday evening and afternoons from Monday March 30, 1961 to Friday February 16, 1968.

For a time, "The Sandy Becker Show" also aired on Saturday evenings from March 27, 1961 to September 4, 1965.[2]

Becker's propensity for doing comic voices brought him much work in animation; his best known work there was perhaps as Mr. Wizard on "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects" — "Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drone / Time for this one to come home" — who was always indulging and then rescuing Tudor Turtle from his outlandish wishes. He also provided the voices for Sergeant Okie Homa and Ruffled Feathers on "Go Go Gophers". The former character sounded similar to John Wayne, while the latter simply exploded into babbling gibberish whenever he explained his latest idea to stop the coyote adversaries.[3]

On his morning and (later) afternoon children's programs, Becker created such characters as double-talking disc jockey Hambone, addled but brilliant Big Professor (who claimed to know the answer to every question in the world), rumpled Hispanic kid's show host K. Lastima, incompetent mad-scientist Dr. Gesundheit, and — showing a remarkable knack for silent comedy — simple-minded Norton Nork, whose routines of earnest bumbling were joined only by musical accompaniment and a droll Becker narration that ended, invariably, with, "That's my boy, Norton Nork — you've done it again!" He also had a real bird in a cage called "Chipper".

Another aspect of Sandy's humor was derived from his interaction with his (often ethnically stereotyped) hand puppets, which included Marvin Mouse, Googie, the German-accented Geeba Geeba, the English Sir Clive Clyde, Wowee the Indian, the space creature Sputnik, the Latino K. Lastima (the name taken from the Spanish phrase "¡Qué lástima!" {"What a pity"}), and the Irish Danny Moran.

Sandy's show was so popular in the NY area that when he began using a version of the Hambone Theme music from an old 78 RPM record by Red Saunders which was recorded in 1952, the Okeh record company re-released the song on a 45 RPM record. Enough kids bought the record that it reached Survey position #22 on local rock radio station WMCA in March 1963. For the morning show's own theme music, Sandy came to use Guy Warren's "That Happy Feeling" as recorded in 1962 by Bert Kaempfert. (The evening show used "Afrikaan Beat" also by Kaempfert.)

Becker also created a puppet known as Henry Headline, who delivered lighter news to the children who tuned him in every day. He was quoted in an early 1960s interview as saying it was better to introduce children to news listening on a lighter note. "The impact of a major news story might be lost to them or it might even frighten them," he told the "Long Island Press". "They'll learn about wars and international crises soon enough. I try to keep the news as light as possible. Occasionally I'll use an item that has historical value."

In spite of that view—or perhaps because of it—Becker is warmly remembered for the manner in which he handled one of America's deepest tragedies on the air. On November 22, 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Becker went on the air and, quite movingly, attempted to explain to his young viewers what had happened.

Sadly, most of Becker's programs were not preserved. Most went out live and were not kinescoped or videotaped, they live on only in the memories of those fortunate enough to have watched them. However, some clips are surfacing on the internet.[4] After he withdrew from on-camera hosting in 1968, Becker helped other children's shows create puppets and characters, and he became known as a mentor to new generations of children's hosts.

"I never treated them as though they were in swaddling clothes," he said many years later of his young viewers. "Most kid shows regard young viewers as babies. I wanted to treat them as their parents might if they were on TV."

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